Former inmates turned job applicants face the often stigmatizing effect of a criminal record made even more difficult during a tough economy. “When they get out into the job market, a lot of them come up short. They get very frustrated, and that’s where we come in to help,” said Darryl Johnson of Milwaukee’s Riverworks Development Corp. tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Riverworks works one on one with former inmates in an effort to level the playing field. “Many people have mentors who have guided them through their careers, but these are workers who haven’t had that same opportunity,” said Johnson. Along with huge doses of encouragement, the organization provides free job training, employment counseling, work support strategies, coaching in financial literacy. and other workforce development opportunities.
This year, the organization got $40,000 from the United Way of Greater Milwaukee for the program. “Studies show that people who have received additional, job-specific training make more money per hour than their counterparts,” said the United Ways’s Nicole Angresano. “This program helps people develop the skills to gain and sustain employment and earn enough income to meet daily expenses and basic needs.” Said an inmate counselor, “We teach them to take every little job. That means accepting some jobs they might feel are associated with a young person, but it is a steppingstone to learn how to deal with people and find out their strengths or weaknesses.”